What is a literacy bag?
A pack containing a terrific children’s book along with a combination of toys, games and activities that relate to the book and extend learning.
Why use them?
Teachers do use literacy bags in the classroom, but the most popular use is to send them home for a few days. Encouraging children to engage in literacy learning at home with their families is an excellent way of reinforcing skills learned at school. Researchers* have shown the use of literacy bags to be highly successful, not just for academic gains but to encourage families to be part of the child’s educational process.
The benefits (according to research)
- Many parents are not sure how to help their little one learn; these packs have all the resources they need and relate to what their child is learning in the classroom.
- Encourages parents to read aloud with their child. Reading aloud is one of the most important activities for a child to successfully learn to read.
- Over time parents gain ideas to engage their child in literacy learning using their own books or library books. (Or they just use ideas from this blog post!)
- Reading together is a social event
- Positive interactions encourage a love of books and reading and can improve a child’s attitude towards school
- Children learn more effectively when information is presented in a variety of ways (called double coding)
- Reading aloud allows children to:
- learn how books work
- learn how stories are put together and retell them
- have discussions about the text and illustrations
- use new and varied vocabulary (an important predictor of long-term academic success)
- Shared reading allows children to develop:
- alphabet awareness
- phonological awareness (how sounds work: syllables, rhyme…)
- print awareness (pages, covers, reading left to right…)
- visual and auditory memory
- Additional activities help develop:
- fine motor skills
- time management skills and the ability to complete a task
- writing and drawing skills
- story sequencing
- number confidence if the story relates to math as mine shown above does
- Can be an effective way to involve the family
- Helps parents understand their child’s learning goals
- Helps consolidate concepts taught in the classroom (research shows at-risk learners show greater progress with literacy packs than regular learners)
- Activities can be tailored to student needs: for eg taking into account their preferred learning styles, interests and capabilities
- Activities are fun and not overly difficult which encourages their use
What might be in a literacy bag?
These are ideas you might like to use to create your own literacy bags. You are only limited by your imagination, and by the specific needs of your children!
Remember, you only need:
- 1 book
- 2 games or activities
Retelling activities: children can retell the story while working on, or when finished, any of these projects.
- Draw pictures showing the beginning, middle and ending of a book (using paper and pencils or small whiteboard and dry erase markers).
- Write a few key words on small cards to represent different parts of the book. In Cinderella, for eg, the words might be step-mother, work, pumpkin, prince, shoe.
- Use puppets or small toys to retell the story.
- Make a small booklet with a key picture and word or sentence on each page.
- Draw lines that cut across the centre of a paper plate to make enough triangles for retelling the story. The child draws a part of the story in each triangle. Another paper plate with one triangle cut out is placed on top and secured with a paper fastener. The child rotates the top plate and tells the story as each new picture is uncovered.
- The above activity can also be used for children to:
- illustrate their favourite words.
- show what parts of the book were happy, sad, angry, silly etc.
- illustrate the different settings or characters.
- Draw pictures of their favourite activities or parts of the story.
- Write down new or interesting words they learned.
- Write (or dictate) a letter to one of the characters.
- Write a list of the characters and settings.
- Make a poster with an interesting title. For eg, Oo… I lost my shoe!
- Send shaving cream and coloured rice home for writing words into
- Spread printed letters around the floor that represent the beginning sounds of the character’s names or other story elements. Children say story word and beginning sound and throw a small beanbag onto that letter. Can also be adapted for middle and ending sounds or long vowels.
- Have children search for specific words, particularly common sight or rhyming words.
- Provide cards related to the story’s vocabulary for matching or bingo-type games: sight words, word families, rhyming words, long vowels, digraphs… in words and pictures.
- Finding words containing 1, 2, 3 or 4 syllables.
- How else could the story have ended? Can you make it a happy, sad, funny, angry or surprising ending? (If there are other versions of the story it’s excellent to read and compare them).
- Why do the characters act the way they do? What might have happened to them in the past?
- Are there rhyming words? What other words could the author have chosen that don’t rhyme but have a similar meaning?
- Draw/paint the scenery then add the main characters.
- Make a collage out of recyclable materials: choose any point in the story or any character.
- Act out the story trying to move and sound like the characters in the book.
- Draw the characters, cut them out and attach to craft sticks to make puppets.
- Write a song about the story using a familiar tune and sing it together dramatically. A Cinderella Song is one I wrote to Twinkle Twinkle that you’re welcome to download and use for free. It has both a colour and black and white version, plus US and Australian spelling versions. Of course, children’s song versions will be simpler – reassure the kids that they don’t have to rhyme!
Download this song: use this link
- Provide an additional non-fiction book that teaches more about an aspect of the story
- Add extras that might be represented in the book such as magnets, a magnifying glass, plastic animal toys, shells, building blocks…
What was in my literacy bag?
Technically, since it’s a number book, it could also be called a math bag! There are many more activities in here than would normally be in a take-home pack, but some can be taken out depending on the needs of the child, or children can just choose their favourite activities or they can keep the pack at home for a longer period.
- The Number One Aussie Counting Book by Heath McKenzie
- Number formation rhyme posters
- Trace and write activity
- Frog puppets for counting and talking about what they would say to each group of animals
- Discussion starters (can’t be seen in the picture): finding consecutive words with the same starting sounds (alliteration). What other words could have been used? This story contains many closely-related descriptive words so children need to think about the words and decide if they have the same meaning or if are there slight differences in meaning.
- What parts of Australia might these animals live? For eg, in a forest, desert, ocean, stream, backyard, tree, underground…
Fine Motor skills
- Number play dough mats
- Assembling craft sticks in groups of 5
- Tiny pom poms to create number groups using tweezers
- Jingle bells: children compare the volume of sound produced by using more or less bells
Math (MAKE SURE YOU DOWNLOAD THE LITTLE NUMBER BOOK FREEBIE)
- 2 large die for subitizing
- Kangaroo buttons for sequential counting and number recognition
- Little number books: made from one piece of folded paper. They are simple to make and fun to complete – it’s hard to go wrong with stickers!
How should they be implemented?
- Teachers need to know their children’s families in case adaptions need to be made: for eg, translating documents or including fewer activities (or just the book and a toy) due to family time constraints.
- Ensure parents understand the purpose of the bags and parent expectations well before implementation.
- Introduce similar classroom activities to children so they are familiar with how literacy bags work.
- Try and match bags to themes currently being studied at school.
Does it have to be a bag?
Of course not! Other popular choices are to use a: backpack, purse, basket, box, gallon zip-lock, file folders…
Click on the link if you would like to read other research posts on Liz’s Early Learning Spot.
What are your favourite literacy bag activities? Please leave a comment!
Brand, S.T., Marchand, J., Lilly, E. & Child, M. (2014). Home-school literacy bags for twenty-first century preschoolers. Early Childhood Education Journal. Vol 42: 163-170. DOI: 10.1007/s10643-013-0603-8
Grande, M. (2004). Increasing parent participation and knowledge using home literacy bags. Intervention in school and clinic. Vol 40, No. 2, 120-126. DOI: 10.1177/10534512040400020901